Shamed former Labour MP David Chaytor is starting an 18-month jail sentence after admitting he fiddled his parliamentary expenses.
Chaytor, 61, forged tenancy documents and invoices to falsely claim more than £22,000 of taxpayers' money for rent and IT work from the Commons authorities.
He is the first ex-MP to be jailed since Tory peer Lord Archer received a four-year sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice in July 2001. But Chaytor could be released as soon as the end of May under early release rules for non-violent prisoners who pose a low risk.
Passing sentence at Southwark Crown Court, Mr Justice Saunders told Chaytor that putting him behind bars was one of the first steps in restoring public faith in the parliamentary system.
He said: "These false claims were made in breach of the high degree of trust placed in MPs to only make legitimate claims. These offences have wider and more important consequences than is to be found in other breach of trust cases. That is the effect they have had and will have on the confidence the public has in politicians.
"They are elected representatives, they hold an important and powerful place in society. They legislate what the public can and cannot do. It is necessary their behaviour should be entirely honest if public confidence in the parliamentary system and the rule of law is to be maintained."
Chaytor, of Lumbutts, Todmorden, West Yorkshire, looked gaunt but calm in the reinforced glass dock and made no reaction as he was sent down. He began his sentence at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, where he was due to be strip-searched, photographed and fingerprinted before being issued with prison clothing.
Chaytor faces a potential six-figure legal bill for his defence and part of the prosecution costs, including several hearings at the High Court and Supreme Court. The former lecturer initially denied the charges but changed his plea after failing to have the case thrown out citing parliamentary privilege and that he could not receive a fair trial because of media scrutiny.
He pleaded guilty last month to three counts of false accounting between November 2005 and January 2008. The fraud involved bogus documents he submitted to support claims totalling £22,650 for IT services and renting homes in London and his Bury North constituency. The court heard he only received £18,350 because he had already reached his limit for the IT expenses and was not awarded the full amount for one rental claim.
Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said the properties were owned by Chaytor and his mother, he did not pay out any money and the claims were entirely fraudulent. The former MP submitted claims totalling £15,275 and was paid £12,925 for renting a flat in Hide Tower, Regency Street, a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament. But it turned out that he and his wife had bought the property in 1999, two years after he was elected to Parliament, and paid off the mortgage on it in 2003.